It was July 2016 when my parenthood and professional development adventure began.
While I was pregnant with my first son, living in England without immediate family nearby and doing remote work as a freelance marketing communications consultant, I would spend my days working from home or cafes and then waddle around North West London for a bite to eat, visit to a park or a prenatal yoga session.
In the lead up to the 2016 Brexit referendum and my baby’s summer due date a week later, I decided to do a quick search for business networking events for parents and came across the Google for Startups 10-week Campus for Mums program.
When my son was born in early July and the applications opened, I applied one night before bed with my seed of an idea in hopes of meeting other people with kids near me and was accepted.
Fast forward to August 2016 and I was red-faced, nervous and holding my then seven-week-old baby when I made my introductory ‘pitch’ during week one of the program in front of 35+ complete strangers.
I had just been given the ‘OK’ by my doctor to proceed as normal going about my day-to-day activities post-emergency c-section and I hadn’t navigated that part of East London with baby and all my gear (stroller, carrier, nappy bag) solo until then.
I would have normally been shitting bricks with public speaking nervousness but to be honest my red face was more a result of the fact I had made the hour-long trek there using a combination of overground train and stroller power walking.
Add to that my body was a 24/7 milk factory for a c-section baby that was in the 90th percentile and my son was prone to overfeeding during each feed, resulting in a spit up all over my outfit of the day…every day.
The midwives had told me that it was nothing to be worried about, he was growing and his tummy was adjusting, all I needed to do was be prepared for loads of laundry and always have changes of clothes for us both at hand.
So on the first day of the 10-week program, I wore white thinking if he spit up on me before my intro slide (which he did) it wouldn’t be as noticeable.
With my top soaking wet and my hair stringy with baby vom, I stood up in front of the room, introduced my baby (who babbled for most of my two minute talk) and myself, told them a bit about my background and idea and then sheepishly found my seat again to continue wiping up the mess.
To my surprise, no one laughed at me.
They only smiled dotingly at us and then kept coming up during the breaks and from then on during the program, to offer to help with him during the sessions, commend me for leaving the house at seven weeks postpartum (he was the third youngest baby in the program) and ask if I’d like to be introduced to their contacts in London’s FinTech industry.
And that my friends is beauty of surrounding yourselves with a supportive group of people who want to see you do well, help you achieve your goals and also perhaps hold your baby while you use the loo/grab a bite to eat/work on your pitch deck!
Most parents to a squirmy and squishy fresh baby will agree, having free arms on occasion = BIG DEAL.
“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”
– Amy Poehler
Yes, Amy P, you said it!
When I relocated back to Canada in 2017, I had a newfound motivation to address the isolation I sometimes faced as a working expat and new parent.
Determined to maintain a sense of self while looking after my first son (2016) and preparing to give birth to my second son (2018), I often sought out networking and professional development opportunities but was surprised by a lack of inclusive spaces with baby change facilities and parent-friendly event times.
I participated in an online Parentpreneur Startup Accelerator program, where I set out to make more space for local primary caregivers who also wanted to invest in themselves alongside their children but I still longed for some face-to-face time with other ‘parentpreneurs’ in a safe and inclusive space that I felt welcome in.
Since mid-2018, I’ve been working on a pilot program to help other Ottawa-area parents invest in themselves alongside their children, because I believe everyone deserves to design and create a life that works for them and their family.
Babies, Business + Breakfast™ is the result, a pilot program for parent-friendly professional development, aiming to improve parental mental health and accessibility of professional spaces across the city.
After starting a newsletter, participating in Ottawa’s Impact Academy, undertaking a bit of ‘parentpreneur’ activism and hosting a focus group in 2018, I am continuing to work toward a future in which parenthood and professional development don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
My ‘parentpreneur’ activism resulted in the first-ever baby change table being installed in a non-gender washroom at 7 Bayview Yards, the home of Invest Ottawa and the city’s Innovation Hub, which brings services and support to entrepreneurs under one roof.
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Hill, N. (2016, October 26). Napoleon Hill’s 17 Principles of Personal Achievement. https://www.success.com/napoleon-hills-17-principles-of-personal-achievement/ (A summary of Napoleon Hill’s written works published online by SUCCESS Magazine).
Canfield, J. (2017, July 5). Why You Need a Mastermind Group & How to Create Your Own. https://www.jackcanfield.com/blog/mastermind-group/